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Selling your Home

In most cases, the first step in selling your home is to contact a real estate agent to list your house or condominium for sale.  A real estate agent may be either an independent broker, or a sales agent employed by a broker.  You should try to find an agent who is familiar with the homes in your neighborhood and with the type of home you own and who will list your property with the Multiple Listing Service.  Some agents are more familiar with condominiums while others may sell nothing but single family homes.

A professional real estate agent will perform an appraisal on the home by looking at selling prices of comparable homes in your area.  You may wish to obtain estimates from a few different agents, or pay for one from a professional appraiser, before deciding on the selling price for your home.  Once an asking price has been arrived at, the agent can list the home on the Multiple Listing Service which makes details of your listing available to other registered real estate brokers.  This is an extremely valuable service which can help you to sell your home faster and for a better price.  Many agents will also advertise your home in order to attract buyers.

Once you have chosen an agent, he or she will ask you to sign a listing agreement.  This is a legally binding agreement which gives the real estate broker the authority to list your property for sale.  A listing agreement can be either an exclusive agreement, in which case only your listing broker may sell your home, or a multiple listing agreement in which case any broker who is a member of the Multiple Listing Service can sell your home.  The commission will usually be lower on an exclusive agreement, but it may take longer to find a buyer because the listing is not open to other brokers.  In most cases the listing agreement will be valid for a term of 60 or 90 days.  In return, the broker will receive a commission, usually 5% for a multiple listing, on the sale of your home.  This commission will usually be payable even if you find a buyer yourself during the term of the listing agreement.  You may also be liable to pay the commission if the home is sold within 60 days after expiration of the agreement, or if it is sold to someone introduced to you by your broker.  In some cases you could be liable to pay the commission even if the purchaser found by your broker fails to complete the purchase.  In order to protect yourself against this possibility, you should make sure that your agreement with the broker/agent specifically states that the broker fee is not due until the full purchase price is paid to the seller.

When a purchaser has been found for your home, you will be presented with a written offer.  Prior to signing any offer, you should consult with an attorney.  There is ample case law in Massachusetts enforcing signed offer forms even though they contained language which contemplated the execution of a purchase and sales agreement and did not contain all of the terms of the transaction.  After an offer has been accepted, a purchase and sales agreement will be prepared.  This agreement sets out the description of the property, the selling price, the amount of deposit, any fixtures or chattels included, and the closing date for the transaction, along with a number of other legally significant clauses.  In most cases a standard form contract printed by the Greater Boston Real Estate Board will be used.  While this standardized form is a good starting point, there are a number of additional clauses that should be added to protect your rights.  You should have this agreement reviewed by your lawyer prior to signing it.

Once the purchase and sales agreement has been signed, you should take a copy of it to your lawyer along with the deed to your house and any mortgages or other liens registered on the title.  Your lawyer will need these items in order to prepare the deed to the buyer and to ensure that clear title passes to the purchaser.  If you so choose, your lawyer can prepare a limited power of attorney for you which will allow your lawyer will complete the transaction on your behalf and avoid the need for you to appear at the closing.

At closing, you will be required to deliver good and marketable title to the property which will require that all outstanding liens and mortgages on the property be paid off.  Prior to accepting an offer to purchase, you should make sure that the purchase price will cover the payment of all outstanding mortgages and liens; otherwise, you will be required to deliver funds at closing to pay off these items.  If your property is serviced by a septic system; prior to closing, you will be required to provide a Title V certificate to the buyer certifying that the septic system meets all of the state regulations.  You should make sure that your system passes prior to accepting any offer; otherwise, prior to closing, you may be required to upgrade the system at significant financial expense.  The cost of upgrading or repairing a septic system can be significant and can turn a contemplated sale into losing proposition, which you can not avoid.

This web site is designed for general information only.  The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.  Persons accessing this site are encouraged to seek independent counsel for advice regarding their individual legal issues.